By Frank Gale
Fans that attend football games at Neyland Stadium have probably noticed the newest addition to the retired jerseys, No. 45. Of course that was Johnny Majors’ number and he joined seven other honored players with retired jerseys on the facade between the upper deck and the lower deck this past season.
Most will recognize Peyton Manning’s No. 16, Reggie White’s No. 92 and Doug Atkins’ No. 91. But, that leaves four more numbers and names that most of the Big Orange Nation might not be familiar with.
The numbers belonging to the other four were not all starters for the Vols and none were All-American players. No. 32 Bill Nowling was a fullback and a three-year starter for the Vols and probably the most gifted of the four.
No. 49 Rudy Klarer was a reserve guard, but occupies a rightful spot among the legends who have wore the Orange. He is joined by No. 61 Willis Tucker, a Knoxville High School graduate who lettered one year and No. 62 Clyde Fuson that split time at fullback with fellow honoree Bill Howling.
One might ask just how these four players made it to such a place of honor when so many others that excelled wearing orange over the years have failed to achieve this honor. Tennessee retired those four jerseys in 2006 during the Air Force game in a special ceremony.
The family members of all four men were present that September afternoon; however, none of the four were there to take part in the induction. You see, these four former players made the ultimate sacrifice for their country during World War II.
Memorial Day is the perfect time to be reminded of those that can no longer be a part of those festivities that surround this holiday weekend. I am reminded of not only those four special players who occupy a place of honor inside Neyland, but all the fans and past players who held the Vols dear to their hearts and are no longer with us.
Tennessee paid a tremendous tribute to these fallen heroes a few years ago. Now, you can enlighten those around you on your next visit to Neyland Stadium about those four players and why they deserve this place of honor on Rocky Top.
So this weekend, take a few moments and remember just why we have Memorial Day. Honor all those who have safe guarded our freedoms and the sacrifices made by so many.
Have a great weekend – God bless America and Go Vols!
(Frank Gale is a Chronicle correspondent and his column appears regularly.)